Paul Fulcher's Reviews > Above the Fat

Above the Fat by Thomas Chadwick
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bookshelves: sub-roc-bookclub-2019-11, 2019

“You know,” said the old man. “Sometimes I’m not sure I know who you are, but that’s one of the best eggs I’ve ever eaten.”

Above the Fat is the debut collection of short stories from Thomas Chadwick, including two stories already shortlisted for prestigious UK awards - 'Birch' for the 2017 White Review Prize (http://www.thewhitereview.org/fiction...) and the title story 'Above the Fat' for the 2019 Galley Beggar Prize (https://www.galleybeggar.co.uk/2019-s...)

The collection has been published by the exciting new venture Splice (https://www.thisissplice.co.uk/about-...) - a small independent publisher of short story collections, a home for excellent in-depth book reviews and an anthology where their featured authors come together in anthology in which they “splice” their work with the work of another writer.

It is also the second book in the new Republic of Consciousness Prize bookclub which curates some of the finest fiction from small independent presses in the UK and Ireland and helps raise funds for this wonderful literary prize. See https://www.republicofconsciousness.c... and https://www.patreon.com/republicofcon...

This is a strong and distinctive collection. Birch is a story based on the timber and pulp industry in the UK and Sweden in 1997-9 but rather more fun than that bald description might imply. And Above The Fat a beautifully controlled story of a chef, trained in top restaurants in Paris and Spain, but now working as the chef in his father's local pub: in the two minutes while he fries the perfect egg, he muses on what led him to this and, on what we (and he) comes to realise is his father's dementia.

If there is a theme that links (most of) the stories, it is of a moment of crisis or clarity, sometimes dramatic, sometimes domestic (another story has the main character debating whether to where a tie to his brother's wedding).

Although perhaps my favourite was of a different style altogether. We're told that:

The novelist, critic and angler Bill Mathers got on with the literary establishment only marginally better than he did with his own family.

And this is then followed by a few pages of his collected aphorisms on fish, family and famous authors. For example:

On his grandparents: “They thought my father was soft for not sending me to boarding school so they’d re-create the experience when I stayed in the summer. Fed bread and water, hours of Latin verbs, and then bed in dorms full of local children my Granddad paid to tease me.”

On pollack: “A lot of people will try to tell you it’s as good as cod, but a lot of people tell you that Howard Jacobson deserved the Booker.”


The Splice website also carries an illuminating interview with the author (https://www.thisissplice.co.uk/2019/0...) and one thing he discusses is his high regard for Hilary Mantel. Best known now for her series of Thomas Cromwell books, she is also a fine short story writer herself, and her 'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher', judged by a jury unaware of the author's identity, was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2015.

In a similar vein, the Splice website has a bonus free story by Chadwick, Politics (https://www.thisissplice.co.uk/2019/0...) which has a sixth form student assassinating the Queen on a visit to his school.

Overall - a highly worthwhile collection from an important new literary venture, and I look forward to Chadwick's work being Splice'd when the anthology is produced.
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Reading Progress

April 4, 2019 – Shelved
April 4, 2019 – Shelved as: awaiting-subscriptions
April 4, 2019 – Shelved as: sub-roc-bookclub-2019-11
April 18, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
April 20, 2019 – Started Reading
April 20, 2019 – Finished Reading
April 21, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019

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